«HAER No. NY-134 Windmill at Water Mill Village of Water Mill Town of Southampton Suffolk Gounty New York PHOTOGRAPHS REDUCED COPIES OF MEASURED ...»
in July, August, September and October. 29 The windmill's apparently seasonal operation indicates that it was probably a custom mill, as were virtually all nineteenth century wind-driven gristmills on Long Island, usually operating only a few months a year. It ground mostly corn, but also wheat and rye, and bolted flour for local farmers. Like other custom mills on Long Island, the windmill's chief production was probably gristJ or feed, for horses and cattle. 31 In return for grinding, the miller took a toll, usually one-tenth of the production. 32 With several other custom windmills within a few miles of Water Mill, in Amagansett, East Hampton, Br|.dgehampton, Southampton, Haye ground, Wainscott and Shelter Island, the Corwith mill probably mainly served the small community of Water Mill, which by 1887 still had only.about two hundred inhabitants. 33 Since the Federal Products of Industry Census does not list the Windmill at Water Mill, and we lack other sources for production data, we do not know the amount of annual production at anytime during its useful life. But fragmentary evidence suggests that it may have been quite small. The census takers overlooked the mill when enumerating the town's industrial sites in each decade between 1850 and 1880, even though in 1850 James Corwith identified himself as a miller and the mill was located directly accross from his residence.
WINDMILL AT WATER MILLHAER No. NY-134 (page 12) worth $2,000, we may surmise that the Windmill at Water Mill produced even less in these years. During the first half of the nirticeenth century, however, before the advent of large steam-powered grist mills which were built in Bridgehampton, East Hampton and Southampton, it is possible that the mill produced much more.
tree." However, this type of neck journal is the usual reinforcement for a wooden shaft and could have been a duplicate of the original. Windshafts in mills in regular use apparently needed to be replaced periodically. The Wainscot^ (1813) mill received a new shaft in 1861 and Hildreth installed a new shaft in his wind~driven sawmill (1822) in 1871. Other documented repairs in 1822 and 1838-1839 were mainly maintenance, but the "hook to the brase /brake?7" that John Burnet replaced in 1838 was probably similar to the cast iron one currently in the mill. This kind of brake hook and iron brake lever ia found in some mid-nineteenth century English mills and is probably an improvement ovef the wooden lever and pulley used in most extant Long Island ^irvdmills. It is possible that other repairs or improvements were made by James Corwith's son Charles, a master carpenter who worked on Daniel Hildreth1s sawmill in Seven Ponds, but no sxtant records were located.
Carpenters1 wages were high in relation to the prices of producer using Charles' carpentry skills might have enabled James to make major repairs at reduced expense.
At least two of James Corwith1s five sons, Caleb Howell and Samuel J., assisted their father in the mill and later became millers. Samuel also briefly worked as a carpenter, living with his brother Charles, and then went to sea. By 1855 he returned from his travels and lived with his father, taking over the windmill which he operated along with the farm. In 1860, the federal census listed Samuel without an
WINDMILL AT WATER MILLHAER No. NY-134 Cpage 14) occupation and neither father nor son acknowledged any real or personal assets. However, the Town of Southampton assessed both James and Samuel Corwith for the mill and farm for $lr5Q07 indicating that Samuel was considered the co-owner of the mill.
In the same year James purchased the "angular tract of land" on which the windmill stood for twenty dollars from the Trustees of the Proprieters /sic/" of Southampton.41 James Corwith died July 3, 1863 at the age of eighty-two.
No will was filed in Suffolk County and the Corwith family has no knowledge of a will. Corwith may have, however, agreed to turn over his assets, including the mill, to Samuel before his death. On January 12, 1864, James' sons Charles, Leander, I Caleb and Silas conveyed "eafh of their right, title and interim est in and to all the Real a^d Personal estate of which James Corwithe...died seized and possessed. »."to their brother Samuel for a total of $200, probably confirming Samuel's de J facto possession of ames' farm and mill rather than reflecting the true value of the property.^3 Samuel continued to run the mill along with farming his land. However, we have virtually no record of the mill's operation in these years other than the word of Samuel's biographer that he did run it. James L. Havens, a Bridgehampton blacksmith, records one repair to the "brae" on June 16, 1864 charged to Samuel Corwith. In 1875, Samuel was appointed postmaster as Water Mill and in 1879 he bought a store. Probably these duties, along with farming, meant that milling was
WINDMILL AT WATER MILLHAER No. NY-134 (page 15) at most an occasional occupation." Samuel's son, James H.
Corwith, apparently helped in the mill after Samuel began running the store. The Corwith family relates that James H.
used to read "forbidden books" such as Peck's Bad Boy while he tended the mill for his father, probably in the early 1880s. The Town of Southampton continued to assess Samuel for the mill until 1887, but the rise in value of his taxable property, to $2,000 in 1879, was due mainly to the acquisition of the store, which raised his assessment $400 above the previous year, and an increase in the value of his farmland. When he sold the mill and its small site a year later, his assessment dropped only $200.
I' By 1880, many Soufchamptqai farmers, such as Corwith, had shifted production to poultry, market garden produce and 1 4R potatoes, with much less wheat, corn and oats grown. Probably the mill ran much less frequently than it had in the early nineteenth century and its production was declining..
Most Long Island wind-driven gristmills recorded declines in production in these years.
Then, in 1888, Josiah Lombard and Marshall Ayres, wealthy businessmen from New York City, purchased eight acres southwest of the windmill and built a large rambling Queen Anne style summer house on the sits.50 This residence and the plantings surrounding it apparently cut off the prevailing summer southwest wind making it more difficult to operate the mill.' It ceased grinding and in 1888 Lombard and Ayres acquired the mill from Samuel Corwith for $900. It remained on its site and during the next few years Lombard and Ayres purchased
WINDMILL AT WATER MILLHAER No. NY-134 (page 16) several additional small parcels to complete their country ■ estate. This pattern was repeated many times on Long Island in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as the Island became a summer retreat for the wealthy and large estates replaced farms, whose owners found their land worth more as decorative landscape than as productive farmland.53 A Southampton farmer recalled that In the summer time the economy of Southampton was directed toward pleasing the wealthy people from the city. Large houses with many servants, gardeners, coachman and stableboys added to the population...the farmers sold hay for the horses and my father had several customers for egg^ butter and chickens on a weekly basis...
During the years that tfie windmill was owned by Lombard and Ayres, some effort was apparently made to keep it in repair. The photograph of the mill taken c. 1889 with a section of the windshaft lying on the ground next to the mill suggests that the windshaft had just been replaced, perhaps with the one described in 1918, similar to that found in the mill today. The same photograph shows the sails still furled on the frames and the exterior in good condition.
Lombard and Ayres apparently sold their country estate by 1896, when they were no longer listed on the Town of Southampton assessment rolls. Samuel Corwith purchased the windmill back from them in 1895 for one dollar, selling it almost immediately to his son James H. Corwith for ten dollars.
Probably these conveyances reflected a family attachment to the mill while the ownership of Lombard and Ayres1 property was in flux, rather than any plans to operate it again; the value
WINDMILL AT WATER MILLHAER No. NY-134 (page 17) of the mill and its site had seemingly declined to almost nothing by the end of the nineteenth century.
Dr. Edward L. Keyes purchased the estate as a summer residence in 1896 and in 1898 acquired the windmill from James H. Corwith for ten dollars. 58 During the almost ten years that he owned the mill he... gave the green with its mill especial care, making it more and mace attractive with repairs and appropriate planting.
The "repairs" mentioned must have been mainly, if not exclusively, to the exterior of the mill, however, because the only photographs we have of the interior, taken c.
1918, show the brake wheel "toppling over." A. postcard of the mill c. 1903 shows the slils, tailpole and exterior IF shingles in good repair with^a stone foundation replacing the stones piled under the cant posts seen in the c. 1889 photograph. By 1906, ivy covered the windmill and its cart wheel appears to be missing. Another photograph c. 1906 shows several scattered saplings planted near the ivy-covered mill. This apparently was "appropriate planting" suitable to the mill's role as a decorative object on the Keyea estate.
In 1909, Edward P. Morse, a Brooklyn shipbuilder, bought the Keyes property, including the windmill, and added a small parcel of the green owned by Theodore Halsey, completing the current dimensions of the mill's site. Morse maintained his summer residence in Water Mill for twenty years, in 1919 extensively remodeling the frame Victorian residence built by Lombard and Ayres into a stucco villa. 61 In 1929 Morse sold the estate, including the windmill, to Irene Ann Coleman
WINDMILL AT WATER MILLHAER No. NY-134 (page 18) of New York City, who turned it over to the Nuns of the Order of St. Dominic of the City of Brooklyn in 1931. Shortly thereafter, they deeded the windmill and its 1.852 acre triangular green to the Trustees of Water Mill Park on the condition that the Town of Southampton maintain it as a public park and "keep the windmill thereon in good repair." Apparently all the conditions were "not performed," and the title to the property reverted to the Nuns. They reconveyed the windmill on May 17th, 1934 to the Water Mill Village Improvement Association, Inc., its present owners, who agreed to maintain the green and the mill as a public park.
The Windmill at Water M^ll does not seem to have fared very well during the years f^om 1909 to 1931. Morse, who owned it for most of this time, seems to have generally neglected it, although a photograph c. 1912 shows the mill with its tailpole and sails intact. In 1918 Edward P. Buffet, in an article on Long Island windmills, described the mill as "ruined," a view corroborated by photographs. His own show interior deterioration, particularly of the brake wheel, while another taken in 1919 shows that the tailpole is missing. By 1930 the windmill's sails were also gone although the stocks remained, and the shingles were considerably deteriorated.
The windmill's preservation as a community landmark was celebrated in 1933 and its exterior as well as some of the interior,were evidently restored for that occasion, probably in 1931 or 1932. A local carpenter from Bridgehampton, James L. Norton, reshingled the mill and replaced the tailpole with
WINDMILL AT WATER MILLHAER No. NY-134 (page 19) a locust stick from Smithtown. The sail frames were also replaced and new canvas sails made; these sails are extant. Some of the cap's framing and a few rotted boards were replaced, although most of the cap is original. Repairs were also made to two rotted cant posts and a rotted section of the curb. Galvanized iron bolts were added to stabilize the brake and great spur wheels. However, no real attempt was made to repair the mill's machinery. Photographs taken in 1935 show the exterior in excellent condition, with the tailpole braced to the cap with tie rods?4 The hurricane of 1938, one of the worst Long Island has ever sustained, did considerable damage to the mill and additional repairs were made iii its wake. The cap slipped off the mill tower and had to be^recentered on the cant posts.
At least two stocks and sails were replaced, A new windshaft, apparently the one presently in the mill, was fashioned by a carpenter in Southampton, John Bennett. The tailpole was resecured to the mill cap. No other interior work was done until after another hurricane in 1954, when tie rods were installed to stabilize the cap sheers, a makeshift weather beam was created with 2'1 x 4"s piled under the windshaft and the tail of ithe windshaft was bolted with a collar to the tail beam. Two by eights were placed under the main vertical shaft above the short sprattle beam at the stone floor to support the shaft. The main short cross beam on the meal floor was reconstructed with 2U x 10s. In the late 1950s the frames of at least two of the sails were again replaced and in the early 1970s new sash was installed throughout.
WINDMILL AT WATER MILLHAER No. NY-134 (page 20) No other major repairs or reconstruction have been undertaken.
The history of the Windmill at Water Mill in many ways parallels that of other eastern Long Island windmills.